WASHINGTON — The neck stiffness that forced Yu Darvish to miss his last start has subsided and he said he’s good to go for Sunday’s start against the Nationals.“There’s no problem at all,” said Darvish, who threw 20-25 pitches in a bullpen session Friday.“I felt as good as the bullpen session I had in Detroit. No discomfort whatsoever.”The Texas Rangers ace was a late-scratch from his previous scheduled start Tuesday in Minnesota with neck stiffness. An MRI showed no significant damage.Darvish remained coy when asked what caused the setback, saying: “I can’t really say what the cause was.”Either way, manager Ron Washington feels confident that Darvish can take them deep into the game. He downplayed the idea he’d need to keep a long reliever fresh for Darvish.“I don’t need anyone to back up Darvish,” Washington said. “He won’t take it if he thinks it’s going to be an issue.”Darvish dealt with neck stiffness in spring training and it forced him to begin the season on the disabled list. He was expected to be the Opening Day starter.Darvish said it’s an issue that he has to take better care of and will continue to receive treatment whenever something of this nature occurs.But Darvish assured that his neck is no longer an issue and he is looking forward to pitching at Nationals Park for the first time in his career.As far as his initial impressions of the nation’s capital, Darvish said: “I haven’t had a lot of time to tour around the city, but the bed in the hotel is really comfortable. I was able to sleep really well.”Darvish went on to joke that he also learned the Pentagon had “five sides.”Three straight?Nick Tepesch has won consecutive starts for the first time in his career and is looking to extend his winning streak to three games Saturday.Tepesch has combined to allow five runs over 13 innings in his last two outings with eight strikeouts and only two walks.Is he pitching with more confidence in his second year?“Anytime I take the mound, I have confidence,” Tepesch said. “But knowing a little more what to expect from last year definitely helps.”Tepesch isn’t doing too much different than his rookie season, but is more confident when he finds himself in jams. He has also made an effort to slow the game down when he hits rough stretches.“It’s just a matter of making more quality pitches and not shying away from different situations,” he said.Bullpen mattersWashington hoped to stay away from Joakim Soria on Friday, as his closer had pitched in three straight games. He also wanted to give long man Scott Baker another day off after he made an emergency start for Darvish on Tuesday.It marked the first time Soria has thrown on three consecutive days since he joined the Rangers.Before the game, Soria felt he could throw a fourth straight day as he needed only eight pitches to get through the ninth on Thursday.“I felt like I’ve had a full day of rest,” Soria said. “We’ll see.”BrieflyLeft-hander Derek Holland, rehabbing from off-season microfracture surgery on his left knee, threw a 70-pitch bullpen session Friday. He is feeling good and knows he simply needs to improve his ability to field his position before going out on a rehab assignment.Washington had some nice words for Alexi Ogando, who has allowed one run over 8 2/3 innings in his last eight outings. “The more he touches the rubber, the more hitters he sees, the better he gets,” Washington said.Right-hander Tanner Scheppers (right elbow inflammation) allowed four runs on four hits, including two home runs, in a rehab outing at Triple A Round Rock on Thursday. Washington didn’t seem too concerned about the results, saying it likely won’t impact Scheppers’ rehab schedule.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison